(Vietnamese, 1908-1993)
The Farmers
signed 'Ng Tri' (lower right)
lacquer on wooden board with eggshells, gold foil and natural materials 62.5 x 45 cm. (24 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
From the collection of the artist's family

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

The leading artist in Vietnamese lacquer, Nguyen Gia Tr? is not only a perfect practitioner of the art, but also an exacting theorist. His life epitomizes the artistic and political story of 20th-century Vietnam. Born in 1908 in Hadong, near Hanoi, and educated in northern Vietnam, Nguyen Gia Tr? established himself as an artist in the south. While he adopted Western techniques in his works, he applied these on the uniquely Oriental medium of lacquer. To admire a work of Gia Tr? is to immerse in the enduring elegance and beauty of Vietnam, and be absorbed by the country's inspiring history.

In the 1930s, as a student at the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts de L'Indochina, Nguyen Gia Tr? was one of the pioneers in transforming the decorative handicraft of lacquer painting into a heightened means of artistic expression. Combining foreign engraving and inlay methods, along with basic principles of European painting and new lacquer techniques for preparing, polishing and colouration, Nguyen changed the landscape of traditional Vietnamese lacquer painting. Additionally, faced with the problem of a limited colour palette to work with, Nguyen and his compatriots improvised new colours produced from organic materials such as eggshell to create a pure white. These new developments and techniques allowed lacquer painters to explore a wider range of subject matter and expressions.

This season, Christie's is pleased to present two iconic works of Nguyen Gia Tr? from the collection of the artist's family. Two Ladies (Lot 215) is an iconic subject of the artist. Highly regarded for his scenes of women at leisure or engaged with the making of music, Nguyen contrasts the traditional red lacquer background with the white of the eggshells as well as browns and gold. The overall effect is rich and undulating and the gold dazzles through the luminous surface, creating a sense of rhythm and exuberance, highlighting the silhouettes of the women in the foreground.
Drawing inspiration from the years in which he was taken to a remote area where the minorities lived and placed under house arrest by the French government, The Farmers (Lot 216), probably depicts the observations he made of his surroundings at that time. The scenery captures the life in rural Vietnam during that period through the graduated farmlands picked out in flecks of gold - a feature typical in his artistic language. With his traditional yet innovative techniques, Gia Tr?'s laborious lacquer paintings are truly a labour of love and an expression of his love for the landscape and culture of Vietnam.

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